n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Trends in the South African collective bargaining system in comparative perspective

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



This article examines trends in the South African collective bargaining system over the past two to three decades and compares them with trends in certain other - mainly European - countries. The issues the article focuses on are the trends in centralisation and decentralisation of collective bargaining, coverage of collective bargaining and trade union densities, representivity of bargaining councils and whether the centralisation of bargaining in South Africa has ensured adequate flexibility within the broader context of the South African economy and employment.

The findings are that coverage of the bargaining council system in South Africa has expanded, that trade union density has increased and collective bargaining has become more centralised. However, flexibility in the centralised system has decreased to the point where it is harmful to employment. This stands in marked contrast to the position in European and other countries, where collective bargaining has generally become more decentralised, coverage has remained stable or gone down, trade union densities have declined and the whole employment relationship has become more flexible.
The opposing trends in South Africa are explained as being due to the rise of a powerful Black trade union movement that has made a big impact on the collective bargaining system.

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